Italian Ricotta Cheese Cookies
with Candied Lemon Wheels

by Cynthe on April 5, 2009

Traditional Italian Ricotta Cheese Easter Cookies decorated with Vanilla Glaze & Candied Lemon Slices

Traditional Italian Ricotta Cheese Easter Cookies decorated
with Vanilla Glaze & Candied Lemon Slices

(An eggless adaptation from Linda K’s recipe on www.AllRecipes.com)
*   *   *   *   *

Cookies and breads are a natural culinary venue as I have decades of baking experience. Made homemade bread the old-fashioned way with yeast, double-risings, and hand-kneading back in the mid-70’s. My oldest son Marc, still a toddler, liked to bang pots and pans at my feet in the kitchen.

I was a natural baker. The problem was everyone in our communal household, in particular THIS baker, tended to eat MUCH more bread, when it was fragrant and warm from the oven! (sigh)

As Marc approached his third birthday, I returned to working part-time and got a job as a professional baker at Pine Street Bakery in Sausalito CA. Pine Street was a women-run enterprise with only two male employees, our delivery truck drivers. Most everyone else – the owners, the bakers, and the bookkeeping staff – were working Moms. Some of us were married, others single, and all with kids, so we appreciated working part-time for a decent hourly wage….a business concept ahead of its time.

Pine Street Bakery, Sausalito CA - A woman owned & operated specializing in giant chocolate chip cookies.

Unfortunately, though everyone’s faces are still so familiar, their names are hidden at the edges of my memory, almost remembered…but not quite.
(I’m fourth from the right, partially hidden in the back row.)
*   *   *   *   *

Pine Street specialized in HUGE – truly ENORMOUS – chocolate chip cookies. After baking, each cookie was about 8 inches across, maybe even larger…can’t recall for sure after 33 years.

Marc \'Marco\' Brownlow (age 3) with his giant 3-m chocolate chip birthday cookie.

‘Marco’ took his GIANT number 3 birthday cookie and showed me it could also be an ‘M’. Marc had started Montessori preschool and was learning the sounds of the alphabet. (Please, be reassured I did keep the kitchen floor clean, though I’m not sure it was “clean enough to eat off of!”)
*   *   *   *   *   *

We learned to use commercial Hobart mixers with mixing bowls that came up to our mid-thighs. One recipe batch called for 100 pounds of flour (we women carried those sacks ourselves from the backroom – thrown over our shoulders and braced against our sturdy pelvises!). Then we added a 50 pound box of semi-sweet chocolate chips, 2-3 dozen eggs (we got good at cracking them two at a time, double handed), lots of butter – don’t remember how much anymore – and sugar, salt, vanilla, etc. The quantities were astonishing.

We scooped the finished cookie batter into a machine we called “The Plopper.” Looked sort of like a large rectangular funnel with two openings that dispensed the gooey contents onto cookie trays carried on a conveyer belt table. The dough “plops” looked and sounded much like fresh cow “patties,” but of course smelled divinely of fresh butter, vanilla, and chocolate chips.

The trays of cookie dough – 8 plops apiece – would be stacked in tall, wheeled, racks to await loading into the commercial oven….a lot like a multi-tiered rotating pizza oven that ran the entire length of the wall. We wore thick, long oven mitts up to our elbows to keep from being burned as we loaded/unloaded the oven. Used up dozens per month. And baked many dozens more cookies every night.

Our shifts started at 3-4pm and went to 11pm-midnight. One baker would get the late shift, which was rotated among us, and have to stay ’til 1am while the last oven full got baked and then unloaded. We’d leave those cookies to cool to be packaged up the following day by the  “boxers” and retail sales staff.

Damaged and day-old cookies were sold for a discount at the front counter. Sausalito’s bay breezes wafted the irresistible chocolate-vanilla-butter fragrance for blocks, enticing people without fail to our front door by following their noses. Who could possibly resist the smell of freshly baked cookies! It was such an EASY sell….

*   *   *
Now, back to this week’s baking…

Linda K. comments “These soft Italian-style cookies are a hit with everyone. The ricotta keeps them moist, and the recipe yields a large batch, which is great since the baked cookies freeze so well. Do not freeze the unbaked dough. You can decorate them with chopped candied cherries, colored sugar or candy sprinkles.” Rated: 4.5 Stars

Dry and wet ingredients for Italian Ricotta Cheese Easter cookie dough

INGREDIENTS:
2 cups organic sugar OR white sugar
1 cup organic (salted) butter, softened
15 ounces ricotta cheese (no gelatin)
2 teaspoons (organic) Penzey’s double-strength Vanilla extract
1/4c organic buttermilk OR 2 free-range eggs
4 cups organic all-purpose flour (sift well before measuring accurately)
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (rather than 1 teaspoon since the butter was salted)

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a large bow, with the mixer a low speed, beat the sugar and butter until combined. Increase speed to high and beat until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Reduce speed to medium and beat in the ricotta, vanilla and eggs.

3. Reduce speed to low. Add flour, baking powder and salt; beat until dough forms.

4. Drop dough by level tablespoons, about 2 inches apart; onto the prepared baking sheets. (I made extra large cookies, more like 2 tablespoons per cookie, because they needed to be large enough for the candied lemon slices I was planning on using.)

Italian Ricotta Cheese Easter Cookies ready for the oven

5. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for about 15-18 minutes or until cookies are very lightly golden Cookies will be soft & cake-like.
NOTE: I switched the cookie trays halfway through the baking and rotated them, front to back. It still took several minutes longer to bake than the time suggested.

6. Let the cookies sit for 5 minutes. With spatula, remove cookies to wire rack to cool.

7. When cookies are cool, prepare icing.

Italian Ricotta Cheese Easter Cookies hot out of the oven

VANILLA GLAZE (Used a favorite family recipe, rather than the one Linda suggested.)
2 cups sifted organic confectioners’ sugar
(measure carefully without packing)
2 Tablespoons organic, salted Butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon pure organic Vanilla
3 tablespoons organic whole milk

Ingredients for an easy delicious Vanilla Glaze.

Or, try this:
LEMON GLAZE
(One of many options)
2 cups sifted, organic confectioners’ sugar
(measure carefully without packing)
2 Tablespoons organic salted Butter, melted
2 teaspoons of grated Meyer lemon zest
Juice of 1 lemon

Combine melted butter, milk OR juice, flavorings (ie. vanilla, almond extracts ~ or zest ~ or cinnamon, nutmeg, etc. or liquors) in a bowl large enough to carefully mix in the confectioners sugar with a large spoon until smooth. With small spatula or the back of a large spoon, spread icing on cookies or drizzle over the cookies artistically. (I had trouble ‘drizzling artistically.’ Had a great idea, but need MUCH more practice!)

OPTIONAL: Embellish the top of each cookie with confectionery decor of your choice: candied fruits, colored sugar or candy sprinkles, silver dragees, slivered almonds or walnut halves, etc.

Servings: 36  (72 medium or 50 larger cookies)

Italian Ricotta Cheese Easter Cookies decorated with Vanilla Glaze & Candied Lemon Slices

*   *   *
MY COMMENTS:

This is a super EASY, super YUMMY, delightfully VERSATILE cookie recipe. Has the classic butter-sugar-vanilla flavor of sugar cookies complemented with a subtle cheesecake flavor from the ricotta. The cookies are thick, tender & cake-like with a delicate soft chewiness.

The flavorings could be taken in many different directions by adding some cinnamon or nutmeg or cardamom; lemon or orange zest; dried blueberries, currents or cranberries; using a Maple Syrup or Orange glaze…whatever your favorite choices may be.

Festive Italian Ricotta Cheese Easter Cookies ready to eat and enjoy

Many reviewers on www.allrecipes.com completely miss the yumminess, describing these cookies as “bland and uninteresting.” Huh? Maybe they didn’t use real organic butter or perhaps the double-strength Penzey’s vanilla was just the right touch ~ but these cookies are WINNERS in my family for their delicate, addictive, deliciousness even ‘naked’ without any frosting or decor!!!

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

bee April 8, 2009 at 7:52 pm

it’s great to see those old pics, cynthe.

Margaret Davies April 11, 2009 at 4:50 am

I wonder if you could help me I watch a cookery programme today it was a wheat tart (Pastiers digrano.

the recipe had italian whole what to steep over night and the famous candied lemons. Could you tell me where Ican purchase that.

Thankyou

shankari April 13, 2009 at 12:26 pm

Thanks for the cookies Cynthe. We loved them..they are soft and the candied lemon on the top was a real treat!

Cynthe Brush April 14, 2009 at 8:59 am

Bee ~ Yeah, “antique” pics ARE fun. Wish I had thought of taking photos of the bakery’s interior: the impressive commercial scale equipment, bakers at work, the huge bags & boxes of ingredients, etc.

Shankari ~ Glad you & Rajesh are enjoying them! I thought the lemons went very well with the cookies’ flavor, too. The sweetness of everything combined is about equivalent to Indian sweets, don’t you think?

Gave cookies to everyone last weekend: my friend whom we stayed with, her daughter’s family – four guys in that household (cookies gone in a flash!); and my niece & boyfriend who hosted a lovely family luncheon on Sunday. Cookies got thumbs up all around!

Mery Hill April 22, 2009 at 11:07 am

Cynthe i have never seen these cookies presentation and i imagine the flavor is really good. Definitely i will try them with some friends and my family. It’s delicious to combine sweet and sour ingredients, taste too much good.

Cynthe April 28, 2009 at 12:20 am

Margaret ~ Sorry for the delayed reply. Somehow I missed your comment. I would suggest doing a web search for the ingredients as I’m not familiar with the recipe.

Candied lemons are very easy to make yourself if you have some nice lemons to cook. Please see our “Preserving Magic” post.

Mery ~ You will really enjoy these cookies! They are so easy to make and good for any time of year, not just Easter. Do let us know how yours turn out.

holly November 18, 2009 at 3:47 pm

can’t find the preserving link you mention…wanna do the candied lemons!

Cynthe November 19, 2009 at 9:25 am

Ooops! Holly ~ Sorry to not have linked this article to my ‘Preserving Magic’ Candied Lemon Slices article. Had intended to do so….

Candying citrus is super easy and fun. I should do this again for Christmas treats. Enjoy making the lemon slices and come back to tell us how they turn out / what you plan to do with them….besides eating them of course!

Tim October 26, 2010 at 9:15 am

Here are a few names to go with the faces in the Pine Street Bakery photo…

Rear: Dan Griffen.
Top row, far right Mimi Katz
Front center: Leah Katz (in glasses) and to Leah’s left Shannon Lewis (curly hair).
Lying down in apron: Merridy Lewis

Cynthe October 31, 2010 at 8:56 pm

Tim ~ Thanks for finding this old photo and helping ID the fun folks that worked at Pine Street Bakery. Are you in touch with any of them still? Would be fun to get everyone’s names. BTW, did you work there? Were you one of the drivers? (What’s your last name…if you don’t mind.)

Gordon P. (Pete) Apps September 6, 2012 at 2:04 pm

Does the bakery still exist? I remember back in the day (best guess: mid- to late- seventies) when Gretchen and Nancy opened it. Such nice ladies! I think they were also, at that time, still waiting tables at the Trident, where I was doing dishes, then cold side, and then broiler. I was a friend of Bruce Binder who, I think, did the electrical for them. I definitely recognize the building and remember the glorious smells wafting down the streets of that lovely, sleepy town. Them there wuz the days!

Cynthe September 7, 2012 at 8:28 am

Hi! Pete ~ Those were the great ‘ol days. Giant chocolate chip cookies, freshly baked, at a mainly woman-owned and operated bakery, a totally unique concept. I was sort of on the periphery of the bakers group, having been hired in summer-autumn of 1976…and didn’t really know Gretchen and Nancy or the others. Don’t know when it was started, but it would have been in the early 70s. Couldn’t find any Pine Street Bakery history on-line.

The bakery was moved to San Rafael in the spring of 1977 and sold to some fellows for a good price. It lost it’s unique setting in Sausalito with walking passers-by and staffing camaraderie. I worked there briefly, but soon left for another job. Suspect the concept morphed into factory produced cookies of a smaller size, but larger business scale. The bakers had a reunion in the past 20yrs, which I attended, but I never was tight friends with any of the gals. Did love my time there though!

Kim March 14, 2014 at 10:58 pm

Does anyone know about a Pine Street Bakery in Sausalito which would have been operating in the 1920’s? My grandmother had fond memories of it as a child. Is it related to the Pine Street Bakery of the 1970’s? I have a large glass cookie jar marked ‘Pine Street Bakery’ I inherited from my Gramma, which I am sure is from the 70’s bakery. It was special to her because it reminded her of the bakery when she was a little girl.

Cynthe March 15, 2014 at 8:30 am

Hi Kim ~ Doing a quick Google search for ‘sausalito 1920s bakery’ I came across this old Lodi newspaper article that refers to a Sausalito based bakery in the 1920s (bottom of first column). What does your Gramma remember liking the best from the bakery of her girlhood?

I’m sure there is no relationship between the two enterprises. As you know from our article, I worked at Pine Street Bakery in the mid-1970s for a couple of years. And YES! your jar is from there. I remember seeing the jars sitting on the counter where we sold our very popular day-old cookies.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing these great old memories!

Diane October 29, 2016 at 5:18 pm

I too found a jar with “Pine Street Bakery” on it. My grandmother, my father, and myself were all born and raised in San Fancisco. It’s sad to read the bakery didn’t last long. The 70’s were a great time.

Cynthe October 29, 2016 at 6:08 pm

Hi Diane ~ Yeah, as soon as the new owners bought it and moved the bakery to San Rafael…the magic and community of the place was lost. Glad to have been part of it and of their giant cookie vision made with with old-fashioned yummy ingredients and lots of love.

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: